One Eye Open

by Caelyn Sandel (as Colin Sandel) profile and Carolyn VanEseltine profile


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Number of Reviews: 8
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A beautiful gory palace, built on sand, February 15, 2022
by cgasquid (west of house)

i'm going to come right out and say it: the writing in this game is gorgeously disgusting. the horror is real and visceral, and as you begin investigating it things just continually splatter from bad to worse. even images that might otherwise be comical (like the (Spoiler - click to show)laundry chute) have a cleverness to their descriptions that causes the gorge to rise and the eyes to be averted.

you are a test subject in an experiment run by a (Spoiler - click to show)corrupt and evil corporation ((Spoiler - click to show)really, did i even need to spoiler that?). as such, you've developed abilities beyond mortal ken, used with the new CONCENTRATE command. it takes some time to get the idea of how it works, and i kept finding new wrinkles in my powers as the story went on.

in terms of dream-logic, the horror is consistent and makes sense. you can never be quite sure if what you're dealing with is some kind of magic or merely a branch of science that humanity is better off not exploring. you find many diary pages and journals written by the doctors and others involved in your care, and it's very easy to start to care about certain ones (and to want to bring certain others on charges of crimes against humanity).

so, why three stars instead of five? well ... One Eye Open was clearly not adequately tested. there are constant issues with disambiguation any time you're in a room with multiples of the same object, and there are so many objects with the same noun. the notes your character carries are concatenated into a single object; why not the keys? and why isn't there a better way of navigating notes, possibly using the Invisiclues-style menu system that doesn't seem to have been used at all?

there are also cases where there only seems to be a single command that can accomplish the task. i knew exactly what to do in the (Spoiler - click to show)Autopsy Room but I couldn't get the parser to understand any of multiple phrasings. disambiguation stuck its oar in here as well, because (Spoiler - click to show)any attempt to refer to parts of the corpse, including the vital corpse hand, is redirected to the corpse's mouth instead. a situation like this, where you're locked down and being carefully timed, shouldn't have these issues.

finally, while it's possible to get a good ending, getting the correct ending is basically a matter of luck. throughout the game, you'll experience (Spoiler - click to show)flash-forwards to members of the staff dying in assorted horrible ways. in all but one such situation, there's nothing you can meaningfully do. but that one time, unless you ignore the chaos around you and take an unclued action, you're locked out of the true ending. you can't even replay the sequence to try again. this is not fair to the player at all!

overall, there are so many good ideas here. such a good story, albeit one firmly within genre conventions. clever puzzles. but One Eye Open needs more testing and debugging to fix the disambiguation errors, make your notes less of a chore to access, and to fix that one burst of deep unfairness.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Huge horror game with tons of gore, August 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

One eye open was an IFComp game much longer than two hours. In it, you play someone being tested for psychics powers.

Without giving away too much, this is a search-the-lab game similar to Babel, but with gruesome gore in the vein of the SCP foundation (like SCP-610, for instance). The horror has also been compared to the Poltergeist.

Somehow Vespers and Varicella disturbed me more than this game. In a way, the horror are not as scary because of the way that they are described, but they provide a coherent atmosphere. There are many endings, many Easter eggs.

There was no profanity, no sexual material. Not recommended for most people, due to the gore. I probably won't play it again because of it.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Well-Written But Too Easy, August 25, 2020

WARNING: Some very mild spoilers throughout.

This one didnít do it for me. It has some great imagery, and the authors clearly loved making the game. I liked the psychic slant, though it felt more like an extra examine command or hint system in practice. The background story has some promise as well. As a full package, however, itís not as much fun as it should be.

First off, the authors give themselves a pat on the back as they inform us that the game is full of ďstuff". I donít mind a bit of glib smugness, but it has to be earned. If youíre going to make a claim like that, your game ought to be filled to the brim with items, locations, people to talk to. It better not be an empty medical facility with a large number of one-note rooms, a small number of items, and a story told almost entirely via notes and flashbacks. The implementation is standard too. I was expecting tons of things to examine and sub-examine (and sub-examine). But thereís just a few things per room and very rarely do you get an interesting reaction. Very little show, a ton of tell. The Dreamhold this is not.

The writing is very good, though a bit dry in the less exciting sections. I love the vibe here, a mix of Carpenter and Cronenberg, with a little bit of Verhoven sprinkled on top. Body horror and gore, presented with a wink and a nudge (the washing machine in the basement functioning as a large intestine is ingenious). The descriptions of your psychic abilities are also handled nicely, and the flashbacks are remarkably effective in their design. We have some scary scenes, some entertaining descriptions, and some fun ways to die. Though it is odd how there are a few instances where the PC refuses to kill themself, when most of the time they happily traipse into death with a simple >w. I would have preferred a bit more proofreading. Twice are rooms with a flickering light described as ďcinematic". What a mimesis-shattering adjective, one that also doubles, again, as telling in the face of perfectly good showing. Never again, please. Even worse, an exit is left out of one the room descriptions. Being forced to open the walkthrough to see that glaring error made me very unhappy.

There are multiple endings, nine in total, and extra puzzles to solve to obtain them. This may count as ďstuff" but it doesnít do much to entice me, as Iíve never like having to replay a game, or even just parts of a game, just to see a different ending. Usually, thereís only one good one, and its tedious to have to try the others while searching for it. I donít mind extra endings as a bonus, like in the aforementioned Dreamhold, or as a few simple forks right at the end that I can save and retry. But in general, I prefer one ending, one challenge. The tedium, the sense of running in place that I get when going back after seeing The End on my screenÖ itís so unpleasant. This is very much a personal preference, so I donít hold it against the authors or let it factor much into my rating.

The puzzles are mostly perfunctory, though the optional ones require a bit more brainpower. Overall I was just bored. Waiting in the elevator, going through obvious action after obvious action, going to the next obvious point. The beauty of the text adventure is its ability to engage the player by allowing them to become someone else, to think and act and feel in a strange environment, or in a strangerís shoes. When what youíre doing is this straightforward, you lose engagement. Again, the extra puzzles mitigated this, but having to veer off the beaten path just to have something interesting to do is a problem. I recently reviewed an older game that also had fairly simple tasks; Noah, for the Spectrum. That difference is that in that game, you had a more compact area, open-ended design (no locked doors or items you have to wait to get), and less tedium. I also consider the standards of the time. In 2010, you can make puzzles that are far more sophisticated, with more moving parts and NPCs. This isnít a CYOA game. Itís you wandering around a big, empty facility, discovering fragments of a story. Take a page from Silent Hill, not Slender. Youíve created a surreal hellscape, give me some hard puzzles, a way to interact with it that's more complex than pushing one button or collecting a page. Give me some psychic skills, some psychokinesis maybe. Put a real stumper in, make me work for that good ending. I just want a bit more.

I know Iíve been harsh, but I donít want to hurt anyone's feelings here. This game did have stuff I liked, mostly the writing, which is a very important part of interactive fiction. The game design is just bland when compared to the prose. Iím sure that this game would be great for a novice player. As a more experienced adventurer, I just found it kind of dull. A 2.5 that I'll round up to a 3.

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My Favorite Parser Game, October 7, 2019

Yes, "One Eye Open" is over the top, but it's just so well fleshed out (heh heh, "fleshed out") and engaging that I cannot help but absolutely adore it. That and I'm already sort of a sucker for horror games anyways. This game has great replay value, the story runs near cinematically (that is, no matter what choices I made, the story felt cohesive), the dark humor is on point and it plays a variety of tropes to clever and original ends. 10 out of 10 from me.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Console horror videogame in IF form, May 29, 2011
by Janos Honkonen (Helsinki, Finland)

One Eye Open left me a bit torn on some issues - on the other hand it was a good and atmospheric game in the "deserted lab, biological horrors, piecing together the back story" genre of horror, and the game was skillfully written. Then again, I feel like I've done this a dozen times in console and computer FPS games during the last few years: going through labs full of biological monstrosities and looking for voice lo... ahem, I mean pieces of paper. The "concentrate on" gameplay was interesting, though, and a good way to build the back story.

In the end I played to the first ending, and then tinkered a bit to find some others but gave up. One reason for this was the feeling of having seen the genre too many times, others were some annoying disambiguation problems. If I mention the file cabinets and desks, I think people get what I mean.

This review might sound a bit too negative, since I did enjoy the first playthrough. For someone with a different gaming background this could be a four star game, easily.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Things that go splut in the night., February 28, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

I'm not a big horror fan. I especially do not like the kind of B-movie horror where piling on the gruesomely killed corpses seems to be the main point. And yet, within a single week I enjoyed both Leadlight and One Eye Open.

This is a bad game, but it has so much fun being bad that it is hard not to laugh along with it. Another creatively eviscerated corpse? Sure! Another hallway with teeth that eats people? Keep 'em coming! But I'm glad that this was IF, not a movie, because reading about gruesome scenes is a lot better than watching them.

What is weird about One Eye Open is that it combines splatter horror with a far more serious storyline about a psychic research facility, the tensions between the researchers, and the horrible results of their experiments. Fictionally, the two aspects of the game merge seamlessly; but it is perhaps impossible for the reader to both laugh about the horror and take the underlying story seriously. Every gallon of blood and every cubic foot of pulsating flesh distances us more from the characters. I doubt this was the intended effect, but it certainly is the effect.

Nevertheless, One Eye Open is remarkably ambitious and mostly succeeds. The game is very large (and should have been submitted to the Spring Thing rather than the IF Comp). The story is complicated, interesting, and well thought-out. The puzzles are good, and the best ending can only be reached once the player has thoroughly understood what happened in the past and what will happen in the future. Care and attention have been lavished onto the environment. I wouldn't quite call it a must-play game, but it is certainly enjoyable and well worth perusing. I personally prefer it to Babel, which is the game that obviously inspired One Eye Open.

My main complaint, apart from the weird mix of genres, is that the story is mostly told through journal entries and other documents. Journals are the disease of interactive fiction. Using journal entries is almost always the easy way out, and almost never a compelling way of telling a story. In addition, it obviously makes no sense that all these secretive protagonists are writing down their most inward thoughts. People don't act that way. Please, IF writers across the world, stop using notes and journals and sundry scraps of paper as the means by which you deliver your story to me?

But hey, cleaning the suit? The solution to that puzzle was so over-the-top and yet so sensible that I laughed out loud.

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Meat., November 21, 2010
by rach
Related reviews: if comp 2010

This is a biggy. One Eye Open is meaty, and I likes me some meat.

A bold and imaginative setting, uncompromising writing. Even after a lot of play and catching up on backstory, I couldn't explain it all with any certainty, I hope it wasn't too important. (Spoiler - click to show)We collected dozens of scraps of paper, but there were too many of them, and I lost track. Handling the notes was done slickly, but could have been even better with some way of sorting them (or, again, simply fewer of them). I had no difficulty suspending disbelief about finding notes in random places. Once your fridge has turned into an abdomen full of viscera, it's easier to suspend disbelief about things like that.

I loved exploring this world, and found it consistent and solid and full of exciting mysteries, most of which turned out to be well worth investigating. The scope of the map was perfect, enough locations to get stuck into and fascinated by, but each one fully implemented and meaningful. There was a little humour here and there, but blackest black, which is the only humour that can be tolerated in such a game. As well as the odd IF reference, of course, but tastefully done. (Spoiler - click to show)We
liked "Pick up the vending machine and die" :o)

The game handled some out-of-game things really well _in-game_, such as (Spoiler - click to show)"You add the pages you are carrying together and classify them all inwardly as your notes." rather than letting the parser take it with something like "[You can refer to the papers collectively as NOTES.]" as is common. There's nothing too wrong with that, but having the narrator handle new ideas instead of the parser, which is so slick, and surely reducing the interruption of the parser is very worthwhile.

One location caused frustration ended only by external help: (Spoiler - click to show)
The morgue was a problem because of the worst door design in and out of the world. It was bad in-game as I simply don't believe "There's no visible lock on this side", I mean, what? And it was bad out of game because the door release was timed, but the timer was connected to nothing door-related (presumably it was related to the fight):

"After several seconds of empty silence, you hear a click from the door to the south.

There's no visible lock on this side, but you try the door anyway. The hidden lock releases under your hand."

If you have to trap the player in there, and I think you do, then I'd have preferred something more convincing and better clued.

Did killing the zombie from the autopsy room require prior knowledge? It required something, we went over it several times and died horribly a lot.

We were unable to reach the ending we wanted and which seemed to be clued to us, even after consulting all the help available to us. We were also, possibly relatedly, unable to (Spoiler - click to show)play with the chemistry puzzle, presumably because we couldn't find all the drugs we needed. There were other mysteries left over after extensive play, too, such as (Spoiler - click to show) what the deal is with the vending machine? It has such a juicy description, it really felt like it should mean something.

Screen effects are used brilliantly, subtly, to haunting effect.

Wonderfully solid and slick game, ambitious and well-executed in scope, but flailing in puzzle resolution towards the end, possibly the backstory was over-told (or the same bits told over and again). Loved it.

[This is a review of the competition release, IF Comp 2010.]

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Babel, directed by David Cronenberg, November 12, 2010
by Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.)

After a few minutes of playing One Eye Open, I thought to myself, "I remember playing this game when it was called Babel." But after playing it for a good bit longer (much longer than the two-hour judging period), I decided that I liked it quite a lot on its own terms.

The similarities with Babel are legion. In both games, you play the subject of nefarious mind- and body-altering experiments performed upon you by uncaring corporate overlords. You're alone in a research facility in the aftermath of those failed experiments. You gather up the history of the experiments and the facility, piece by piece, (Spoiler - click to show)often by touching objects (although Babel's methodology for this is more organically tied to the story). In both games, you (Spoiler - click to show)fashion an antidote -- tragically never completed by the experimenters -- and have to safely enter a tainted airlocked lab in the northeast corner of the facility. So things may seem awfully familiar.

The primary difference is in tone. Babel is a science fiction/mystery story, with an emphasis on uncovering the truth of what happened at the station. One Eye Open is a horror story. There's a mystery here, but what you really need to know is: the experiment is really, really bad. Your job is to undo it as completely as possible.

There's no build up to the horror. It's all right there in front of you, almost from the first move, which runs counter to the usual horror imperatives of suspense and dread. What it lacks in those areas, though, One Eye Open makes up for in ickiness. The style is early David Cronenberg with the gore turned way up: meat and organs and orifices everywhere, pulsating behind everyday objects. It's agreeably revolting.

The game is a bit too long for the Comp. After two hours, most players will not have completed it (or at least they won't have gotten a good ending, I don't think), and the story is slow to unravel. When it finally does, though, it is very compelling. It's a testament to the storytelling skills of the authors that I persisted long past the judging to get a pretty good ending, and then finally found the best ending days later. Like with certain Cronenberg pictures (I'm thinking here of Videodrome or eXistenZ), I'm not entirely sure what it was I just saw, but I know that I couldn't take my eyes off it.

The coding was mostly solid, with a few minor bugs and annoyances. I wrestled with the parser to get past a certain locked door, had trouble (Spoiler - click to show)putting a vaccine in a syringe, and found myself stymied by files in cabinets. There were some walls of text that could perhaps have been trimmed down as well. But these are insignificant issues that can easily be addressed in a post-Comp release. Familiar as it was, One Eye Open stuck with me, long after Babel did.

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